This post is about Lloyd Denner, Jr., a Niagara area young man who has both autism and is blind. When I read this St. Catharines Standard article about his family’s plight, I remembered what I wrote before on the topic of the closure of the Thistletown Regional Centre which had residential beds and meaningful programs for young adults like Lloyd.
Then, as now, I can’t help wonder, if it’s about saving money, why is it that the Ontario Liberals have wasted millions and millions of dollars on a number of scandals, as well as on the closing of the Mississauga gas plant.
Well, something needs to be done regardless of the Ontario deficit and debt. As an Ontario taxpayer, I know spending must be curtailed. But, it should not be done at the expense of our society’s most vulnerable.
As Karena Walter highlights in her Standard column, there are currently 18,000 people living in Ontario with a developmental disability and receiving some sort of residential supports — costing $1.7 billion annually.
Without a doubt, that’s an awful lot of money! But, if Lloyd Denner has been on a waiting list for five years for some kind of community program, it clearly is not enough.
Here, paraphrased, is the story in brief.
Young Lloyd Denner’s 21st birthday is in the very near future. He has both an autism spectrum disorder and is blind and currently attends a Brantford School for the Deaf and Blind — what I assume is W. Ross Macdonald School. Once he is 21, however, he is no longer the responsibility of the Ontario education system and has to leave that residential school. Which means that some other quality of life stimulating program will need to be found for him to attend. If not, the full responsibility for Lloyd’s care and treatment falls to his immediate family — obviously not a good outcome for anyone involved.
As regular readers to this blog know, I have an adult son with an ASD, (autism spectrum disorder), ADHD and a borderline developmental disability. So, I know first-hand what the Denner’s are going through. I also operated a private practice for children and adults with special needs before I retired. So, I have been there and done that both as a parent and a professional.
So, while I cannot give specific advice, here are some suggestions for the Denners:
(1) Once on a waiting lists for community services, the family spokesperson should e-mail or telephone their contact persons once every two weeks or monthly — for an “update.” The reason? Placement is usually based on need and urgency, so checking that often is important. Regular contact is also important in the event of funding increases or the approval of special projects. (Believe it or not, I have actually known increases and pilot projects to happen!) As the Standard article mentioned, one of the agencies involved with this family is going to co-ordinate a meeting in the near future where professionals from various agencies can brainstorm options for Lloyd.
(2) If an individual has already been diagnosed as developmentally disabled, in the Niagara Region, the family spokesperson should telephone Contact Niagara at 905-684-3407. They can help because they co-ordinate every single program or service for those with a developmental diagnosis throughout the Region. Yes, I know waiting lists are long and that Lloyd has already waited for five years, but results do happen. Although it took many years, my son was eventually placed in a supervised independent living program. The reason the wait is so long is because, once in the programs, the clients don’t usually leave other than for illness or death.
(3) In Southern Ontario, there is Twin Lakes/Bethesda Adult Services for adults with developmental disabilities. While the office is located in St. Catharines, there are residential services all over their geographic area. They provide clinical services, special programs and residential options such as group homes. But, as with Contact Niagara, eligibility has to be consistent with a developmental disability. (See also endnotes.)
(4) Last, but certainly not least, families needing help like the Denner’s could visit with their Ontario MPP on a regular basis. That MPP can write to the Cabinet Minister who is in charge of the ministry affected — which might eventually bring about changes to how funds are allocated. In St. Catharines, the MPP is Liberal Cabinet Minister Jim Bradley.
The crux of the matter is that Lloyd Denner, Jr. needs some kind of community program to replace his W. Ross Macdonald School attendance. It is my hope that Premier McGuinty hears about this matter and does whatever he can to help this young man and his family. I plan to do my bit by sending this link to his Queen’s Park office. Others can so as well by e-mailing the Premier at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- I am concerned that Lloyd Jr’s father is ruling out any kind of group home. Some group homes are as good as Lloyd’s school in Brantford. So I hope Denner Sr., changes his mind about that, particularly as he says, he is not always going to be here. I know it is tough but, as parents, we too had to settle for “a best option possible,” as opposed to the ideal.
- I would also like to provide full disclosure in terms of a former professional relationship with Bethesda/Twin Lakes. I was a consulting adult educator (as in training the trainers) for a number of years up to 2006. As such, I am in a position to confirm how well qualified the staff are at every level of the agency and what excellent programs and services they provide.